Haunted Hearts: Initiation – It was back in 2012 that the Dum Dum Girls/Crocodile offshoot Haunted Hearts first came into public view, a collaboration between husband and wife pair Brandon and Dee Dee Welchez born out of back-and-forth dedications and the overlap of some deeply rooted but not oft-indulged bleeding sounds. ‘Something That Feels Bad Is Something That Feels Good,’ the initial single released by the duo, seemed more like an experiment in synthesizing styles than it did the development of an entirely new project. Two years later, the pair has come out with Initiation, a full album that, contrary to that first single, is much more than just the sum of its two parts.
Check expectations for the album at the beginning – it’s not a new, experimental or otherwise highly different means of making music for either of the contributors. Nothing about it will strike an audience as something that is risky or even novel for the couple. With that in mind, listen carefully and some incredibly exciting features start to show themselves. Reminiscent of the low-fi that later purged itself from the Dum Dum Girls collection and injected with bleary backbeats and static rock tropes that drip with Brandon’s influence, it’s less a synthesis of sounds and much more a give and take between those things that both artists have not yet found the room to fully enjoy.
With heavy roots in synth rock, the album still manages to pull on some surprisingly retro tropes, bringing together classic rock style progressions and Summer-Of-Love-esque rhythms with new wave basslines and digital affectations. In eight short tracks, Haunted Hearts plays around with space, aesthetic and tempo in way that is still exceptionally accessible to listeners, bringing together its vintage influences and solid songwriting to make music that still fits snugly within the contemporary indie image. ‘Bring Me Down’ is an arresting synth ballad that showcases songwriting as much as musical acumen and puts at the forefront those electronic aspects that serve more as accents in other parts of the release. ‘Johnny Jupiter’, the first track available for purchase off the album before its full release, uses metallic guitar echoes and whirring electronic howls to create a dreamy soundscape with Dee Dee humming at its forefront. There isn’t a specific flow to the release as a whole, but even taken out of its static lineup, the tracks have a way of complementing one another while still remaining their own, distinct pieces.
As for the first single, the one that preceded the album by two solid years, it’s spirited and pop-like, mellow but assured. In no way, though, is it any indicator of Haunted Hearts as a whole. Born from the same songwriting sessions as the rest of the album, it’s an easy track to pin the pair’s respective bands’ influences in it, and it’s only natural that a bit of that shows through. Those who picked up the multi-year preview for the rest of the album shouldn’t take the track as law, though. It’s one of a dynamic sampling, unique and merited as any of the individual songs, all of which are worth their own chance.
Coming from the intersection of two bands that have long fed off of one another, it’s easy to assume Haunted Hearts would be the sum of its two influencing halves. With its synthesis of style and willingness to branch out, though, the band has made itself an incredible extension of two artists trying to expand without trying to be something that they’re not. Not so different as to be jarring, not similar enough to be dismissed, Initiation is an album that speaks to the strengths of its creators while still showing that they can explore a new creative space, and be just a little in love in the process…7.0/10